Rishabh Pant: Once in a generation cricketer


Sitting in a Manchester restaurant, Sourav Ganguly once said, “He will be your biggest match winner in the next 10 years. Mark my words. He is blessed with the kind of talent I haven’t seen in a long time. Yes, he needs time but he is a once in a generation player.”

Ganguly was talking about Rishabh Pant. It was the evening after India’s defeat at the 2019 World Cup against New Zealand in Manchester. The loss was yet to sink in. India had failed to chase down 240 and the dream of winning the trophy had come to an end. The man most in the line of fire was Pant for throwing his wicket away. He was called overrated, overweight, reckless and more. His approach to batting was slammed.

Ganguly’s words were hard to believe but he was always fond of Pant and, in the circumstances, it sounded like a huge overstatement.

Exactly three years down the line, one has to agree with Ganguly. Two series defining knocks in Australia, hundreds South Africa (1), England (2) and Australia (1) and the pace at which he bats, Pant is fast elevating himself to the status of a modern day great.

With Pant, it is all or nothing. With that approach, there is no doubt he will fail on some days. But on days he succeeds — his success rate in Test cricket is more than his failures — he takes games away from the opposition. To score at five-run-an-over against an English attack that boasts of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Matthew Potts in Edgbaston under cloudy skies was amazing, to say the least. That innings transformed the match and made sure that India’s hopes in the World Test Championship (WTC) stayed alive.

Pant, unlike what many believe, is a thinking cricketer. He is not all slam bang. There is always a method to his madness. After his Gabba exploits, for example, he had explained how he knew that Nathan Lyon would try to get turn from the rough on middle and off stump and that’s what prompted him to dance down the track and take Lyon on. Pant was playing Lyon both on and off the pitch. He was winning the mind games and winning India the match. It was the same against Jack Leach in Edgbaston. It was no rocket science that Pant would attack Leach. But the manner in which he did so is what defined the first afternoon of the decider. He beat Leach in the mind and managed to take the game away from England.

Pant, with his counter-attacking 146, has set up the match for India. He bats at a pace that allows his bowlers plenty of time to go hard at the opposition. Also, while we celebrate Pant, it will be unfair to not mention Jadeja. Perhaps the most improved Test batters in the last few years, Jadeja looked unflustered even when India were five down for 98 and then when Pant got out.

Rahul Dravid, India’s head coach, is not the most expressive man but his celebration of Pant’s 100 was proof of the innings’ importance. Pant was under pressure for not scoring consistently and his spot in the white-ball set up was being questioned. Dravid has defended him time and again and it was important for Pant to justify the support. That’s what he did at Edgbaston and did so in style. It will go down as one of the most impactful Day 1 innings ever played by an Indian on English soil and one that could go on to win India a historic away series. That’s what Pant is all about, a genuine match winner and a rare talent.



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